Safran seats in play? IndiGo to launch business class product – Runway Girl

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Budget carrier IndiGo, India’s largest and most successful airline, currently offers cheap, cheerful, all-economy service that sometimes ruffles the feathers of its competitors. But its ambitions are growing and on 23 May, IndiGo announced plans to “redefine business travel in India” by launching a “tailor-made business product” for its busiest and business-focused routes, starting at the end of the year.

Company CEO Pieter Elbers made the revelation during an earnings conference call to discuss IndiGo’s robust Q4 financial results, promising to soon reveal more details about the new business class product, a launch date, routes to be served, and a loyalty program.

“Our premium product will embody the distinct IndiGo essence aligning with our comprehensive strategy,” said Elbers. “We believe as India gears up to become the third largest economy in the world, it’s our privilege to provide the New India even more options to choose from as they travel business.”

IndiGo has long operated a fleet of single-aisle aircraft, mainly A320 family twinjets, but also ATR 72 turboprops. Recaro Aircraft Seating’s popular BL3710 economy class seat is now flying on some of IndiGo’s narrowbodies, per a 2022 deal between the seatmaker and the airline. This seat is slated to be installed on a total 75 A320/A321neo aircraft.

Could IndiGo cut into this retrofit program to bring business class to a portion of the A321 fleet?

IndiGo’s A321s seat 232 passengers in an all-economy configuration. Speaking to RGN on condition of anonymity, an airline engineer said IndiGo will convert around 30 to 40 A321s with business class. Speculation is rife that a Safran business class seat product is in play, but we await formal confirmation.

We’re told that the carrier may look to add 12-16 seats in business and between 180-190 in economy. Hot food is expected to be served for the first time. While the present Collins Aerospace galleys will remain, ovens will be added. IndiGo is also understood to be in discussions with aero ISP providers to offer onboard Internet, possibly charging economy class passengers. The airline is likely to provide Wi-Fi for free for a limited time in business class, we’re told.

Busy trunk routes in India, including Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad, are likely candidates for the domestic dual-class model.

Recaro seats in all blue for Indigo aircraft.

Recaro Aircraft Seating recently released this image of the Bl 3710 economy class seats installed on an IndiGo jet. Image: Recaro

IndiGo has been grappling with aircraft on ground (AOG) issues due to problems with the Pratt & Whitney geared turbofan engine on A320neo family aircraft. But while Elbers acknowledged the “presence of headwinds in the next financial year” on the conference call, he noted that a plan is in place to capitalize on opportunities, and that includes moving towards a business class product.

The timing for this transformation seems right. IndiGo in early May announced a firm order for 30 Airbus A350-900 aircraft, saying the widebodies will expand its international network to long-haul destinations.

Some industry observers immediately assumed that IndiGo would offer an all-economy A350, joking on social media that such a configuration would create an ultra-tight seating experience. But if IndiGo is bringing a proper business class product to at least some of its A321s (a recliner product like Vistara, for instance, versus a EuroBiz-style blocked middle seat per every triple) then it may have designs on dual-class A350s.

“Internationalization, widebody procurement, and a business class are all part of our cohesive strategy. We see all the ingredients coming together fast,” a senior manager told RGN.

Rotation

For over a year, IndiGo has used two all-economy Boeing 777s wet-leased from Turkish on the direct Delhi/Mumbai-Istanbul route to address international travel demand from India. A codeshare with Qantas allows IndiGo passengers to connect to four Australian cities via Singapore. Dual-class A321 twinjets could access popular destinations like Mauritius, and fly present routes longer than 4-5 hours like Nairobi, Istanbul, and Singapore.

An IndiGo official remarked at the earnings conference call that codeshares are key. “Indigo’s experience of its partnership with Turkish Airlines ‘has exposed us to international customers, preparing us for the next stage of operations… When the widebody (30 A350s) come in (2027), they will fly direct to destinations.”

In 2023, IndiGo flew over one hundred million passengers. It operates 350-plus aircraft and has an orderbook of over one thousand undelivered A320 family aircraft (having topped up its order to the tune of an additional 500 Airbus twinjets last year, comprising a mixture of A320neo, A321neo and A321XLRs). “This will provide IndiGo a further steady stream of deliveries between 2030 and 2035,” the carrier said in a statement.

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Featured image credited Neelam Mathews

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